If you’re an offgolfer, then no doubt you’ve heard of him. He’s the guy responsible for the world’s largest gathering of urban golfers in which 12 countries and 47 cities around the globe participated last year. The 10th annual World Urban Golf Day is set to take place in fall of 2016.
19NEWS-Mag set out to find out more about the wizard behind the curtain; the mere mortal responsible for World Urban Golf Day, Scott Mazariegos.
19NEWS Mag: Who is Scott Mazariegos?
- Scott Mazariegos: That’s a loaded question … so everyone calls me Scotty. I’m a dad, designer + artist. Also, I’m somehow the face of urban golf here in the US and the guy who you get weird messages from asking if you want to be part of World Urban Golf Day. I’m 46 (but act like I’m 27) years old and have been urban golfing in the streets of Portland Oregon since Memorial Day 2004.
- 19NEWS Mag: What inspired you to take the game off course? Do you recall your 1st session?
- Scott Mazariegos: Inspiration to play was taken form an open that was being held in London called the Shoreditch Urban Open. It was just fucked up enough that I thought we could get away with something like it here in Portland.
On Memorial Day 2004 the first round of urban golf was played in a warehouse district that is surrounded by fancy apartment buildings. It was the hottest day of the year (like over 95 degrees) and I had designed an 18-hole course that length wise represented what you would see on a real golf course … big mistake. Luckily there was a bar on every other corner (which was not planned, but became a bigger part of the game as I figured out how to do this) which we ducked into to cool off and get a drink. There might have been 50-60 people that showed up to play … with this many people hitting balls down the street, the police soon showed up. When the first group of police (ya, first group of 3 patrol cars and a patty wagon to throw us in) saw what was actually happening, they joined in the fun. Throughout the day we would get an officer or two that would come by and say ‘we heard this was happening on the radio and had to come check it out’. One police officer actually took a person to the hospital (dude was standing too close to his friend when he went up to swing … bye-bye front teeth) and ended up coming back because she wanted to take a swing. It’s because of those kinds of experiences that the police came to trust that we were not out to do harm but have fun. Even the Mayor has gotten involved … nothing but positive vibes.
- 19NEWS Mag: More about your Portland Urban Golf team. Please introduce your team? How many players? How long have you been a team? Why did you create the team? What does the team stand for, if anything? Is there and idea/spirit/cause your team aims to promote?
- Scott Mazariegos: The Portland Urban Golf Crew is made up of somewhere between 75-150 players. That number fluctuates depending on the time of year. I’m not sure if we are a team or a group of people who get together to have fun … ‘team’ sounds kind of like something people would stress out about and stress is non existent here.
The reason we play urban golf is to take advantage of the urban environment around us and introduce people to neighborhoods they would normally not go into.
- 19NEWS Mag: WUGD, awesome! What inspired it?
- Scott Mazariegos: Well, a conversation was started by a group in Portugal about all of us playing on the same day. I thought maybe we could get more groups involved and it all took off from there. I would ask anyone I could find on Myspace if they would be interested. That first year I think we had 6 countries and 11 or 12 cities that participated and it just keeps getting bigger every year with 12 countries and 47 cities last year . I have to thank everyone starting in Australia, making our way around the globe to Johannesburg, up to Europe, Canada, the US and back around to New Zealand for making it so successful. Without all of you, none of this would be happening.
- 19NEWS Mag: Why do you play with tennis balls? Most offgolfers today use soft balls. Are tennis balls safer? Do they have a better feeling when playing? Are they cheaper?
- Scott Mazariegos: The old tennis ball conversation. There are actually a couple of reasons that we use them. The biggest one is that most people who play UG have never stepped out on a golf course. Imagine the frustration of trying to hit that little ball to someone who may have never swung a golf club before (and add alcohol). This should be a little challenging, but mostly fun and the size of the ball helps. Secondly, we have tried to play with the soft balls, but because most of our holes are on the street drivers get the impression that we are hitting real balls and call the police. For us it’s the fastest way to end a day of urban golf. When we use tennis balls the police may come by, look for me, wave and remind me not to break anything. Some of them have taken some drives and realize that we are just having fun and not out to hurt anyone or thing. Are they safer? Well, they still break windows and mirrors off of Mini Coopers. So, probably not…
So, our holes can be anywhere from 75-300 yards. With a tennis ball there doesn’t seem to be that fade right/left after it has traveled a certain distance that we experienced with the soft balls. With a tennis ball if you hit it straight, it’s going to go straight. If you slice it, you will be able to see the effect right way.
As for cost, sometimes they are free (if you have people who play tennis who dispose of them after 1 or 2 uses) or you can hit the thrift store and buy a bag of 24 used balls for $1.99. I do like opening a fresh can … to me that’s a true urban golf smell. [Is he talking about beer?] You can tell a difference in distance, flat balls don’t go as far and will lie faster than a newer ball which tends to roll farther after it’s done bouncing.
- 19NEWS Mag: The first World Urban Golf Cup is set to take place in 2018. What’s your opinion on it?
- Scott Mazariegos: Oh man! So looking forward to it … vacation allocated! I hope I/we get invited because I think we would bring a small crew with us PDX style!
- 19NEWS Mag: What’s your best offgolf memory?
- Scott Mazariegos: So many ... friends I’ve made, businesses that enjoy having us stop by, coming up with memorable holes (wait, we are going over the free way? yup!), the conversations about UG. NBC Universal wanted to do an UG show where you traveled from city to city over the course of 9 weeks, but they all got fired for something else so it fell through. All the interviews … ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Outdoor magazine, Good Magazine, Golf Digest and the PGA (more on that below) ... for the fucked up shit we do kind of make me feel like it’s legit.
- 19NEWS Mag: Do you have upcoming projects related to offgolf?
- Scott Mazariegos: Some of the weirdest things have happened due to UG. So last year I got this crazy email from the PGA (Pro Golf Association) about this show they were in the process of developing (here was the teaser) and they wanted to do a feature on UG. Over the course of a few months and many phone conversations it all came together. My biggest fear was that they would make fun of it … and I can now say that they will help bring it to another level here in the US. They flew in after shooting another story in India and played a half round of UG in the pouring rain. They brought in a couple of local golf celebrities (This dude Dan who dropped out of everything to practice 10,000 hours of golf to try and become a pro - check this and then the owner of a specialty golf accessories company Seamusgolf to come out and shoot a few holes. Dang, when you see real golfers play the game it’s beautiful. So, sometime in early February Skratch TV’s Adventures in Golf will have a story solely on the Portland Urban Golf Crew, which you will be able to watch on Youtube during golf rain delays.